The Google Pixel 5 is finally here and just as the rumors suggested it represents a serious change of direction for the Pixel series of smartphones.
The Pixel has come to be known primarily for its first-class photography experience, which is due in large part to Google’s computational photography rather than the hardware itself.
The company is going to be taking those lessons learned from lower-priced hardware like the Pixel 4a and applying them to the Pixel 5 as well, moving away from the high-end flagship market entirely and, instead, offering a nearly flagship experience with a combination of fantastic software and hardware that is good enough while costing hundreds less than the top flagships for 2020.
Here’s a look at everything that we know about the Pixel 5 from including its release date, price, specs, design, camera, software and more.
Google Pixel 5 release date
Google revealed the Pixel 5 alongside the Pixel 4a 5G at its "Launch Night In" virtual event on September 30. Immediately following the event the phone was made available for pre-order and is expected to start shipping at the end of October.
Google Pixel 5 price
Pricing is one of the more interesting stories with the Pixel 5, which at $699 is a more upper mid-range smartphone rather than a true flagship, like the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra or iPhone 11.
Now a year or even six months ago this would have been an even more notable move by Google, but they weren't the only company to key on this hole in the market and competition has arrived from Samsung in the form of the Galaxy S20 FE which is also priced at $699.
And that isn't likely to be it, there is speculation that the OnePlus 8T may hit a similar price point and the iPhone 12 mini will be in this vicinity as well. Google has a decent value proposition with the Pixel 5 at $699, it simply isn't alone.
Google Pixel 5 specs
The processor is one of the most notable steps down from the high-end flagships available in 2020, the Pixel 5 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 765G, which is behind the Snapdragon 865 in several metrics. We still need to get it in for testing to see what the real work performance hit is, but it's a roughly 12% slower CPU, with less than half of the memory bandwidth and memory channels.
One advantage the Snapdragon 765G does offer is superior efficiency, coupled with the 4,080 mAh battery in the Pixel 5 might give it the longest-lasting battery life of any Pixel to date.
It does, fortunately, include 8GB of LPDDR4x RAM. This was a spec that Google had historically skimped on, so seeing that take a step up from the Pixel 4 was welcome. Storage is fine at 128GB, with Google's storage management helping you to offload to the cloud it shouldn't be a problem for most users. With that said the lack of a higher storage tier or microSD card will likely eliminate the Pixel 5 for some users.
Google Pixel 5 design
The Pixel 5 doesn't feature what anyone would likely call an eye-catching design, it's a very traditional rounded rectangular smartphone with minimal bezels and a hole-punch front facing camera.
The back of the Pixel 5 gives it a bit more unique personality with the square camera array as opposed to the rectangle favored by most and the return of the fingerprint sensor. Google eliminated the Soli sensor that powered the facial recognition in the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL, given the somewhat mixed response to both facial recognition and in-display fingerprint readers this may be one "downgrade" that fans don't mind.
While the back of the Pixel 5 looks like a polycarbonate, it actually has an aluminum back and frame, there is simply a solid resin on the back that covers the metal frame and is a unique design move from Google that allows the Pixel 5 to offer wireless charging with a metal frame. It should make the Pixel 5 an extremely durable smartphone as it also features IP 68 water resistance. Google also earns some environmental points for using 100% recycled aluminum in the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 cameras
The Pixel line has been synonymous with a fantastic photo experience since it first launched in 2016, but this has been attributed to Google’s unsurpassed computational photography skills rather than the actual hardware in its smartphones. This was very much on display last year as the Pixel 4 included only a standard and telephoto lens rather than the more common triple-camera array that adds a wide or ultra-wide-angle sensor to that lineup.
The Pixel 5 follows this formula as well with a 12.2MP wide-angle lens at f/1.7 and a 16MP ultra-wide lens at f/2.2. Google's justification for the flip from telephoto to ultra-wide is that you can produce telephoto in post-processing with software unlike going from a wide to an ultra-wide for example. While true it isn't going to produce the same quality, but Google simply wasn't going to include a third lens, so it needed a reason for the two it chose.
Now as I said at the outset the Google photo experience has never been about the hardware, so at the moment it's hard to say how good this is going to be. We've seen the Pixel 4a deliver amazing results, so with more processing power and a second lens we can expect more from the Pixel 5, but we'll need to wait for our testing to see whether it matches up to the competition or previous Pixel devices.
Google Pixel 5 display
It's not going to measure up to the likes of the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, but credit to Google for not skimping on the display in the Pixel 5. The FHD+ resolution is enough for the 6-inch OLED display and it retains the 90Hz refresh rate from the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL.
The Pixel 5 also boasts HDR10+ support, something that Samsung's competing Galaxy S20 FE drops from its pricier siblings and the Pixel 5's one million to one contrast ratio should make it an excellent display for watching content.
Google Pixel 5 software
Android 11 became publicly available on September 9 and will be pre-installed on the Pixel 5 when it ships.
Some of the highlights for Android 11 include a host of new messaging related features like chat bubbles to give you easier access to ongoing chats and a new Conversations category for notifications that will automatically be at the top of your Notification Shade with the ability to prioritize specific conversations to take the top spot.
Speaking of the Notification Shade, it is getting a visual makeover that is meant to help make it more visually distinct from the Quick Settings panel. For those who need to capture their own screens, a new screenshot UI and native screen recording are both coming in Android 11 as well.
Permissions have been a big issue in recent years with many apps seeming to overreach with how much information they need about users and how often. In Android 11, a new feature will let you grant an app permission for “only this time” if you don't want it to have constant access or even access every time you open it.
There’s, of course, much more to come in Android 11, but that’s a quick look at some of the new features that we expect with the Pixel 5.
Google Pixel 5 outlook
It seems clear that Google is taking a gamble with the Pixel 5 this year. The move away from a true flagship is not really something we have seen a prominent manufacturer do. Samsung's Galaxy S20 FE is taking a swing at this same market, but Samsung is hardly giving up on its higher end models.
Despite the competition, Google could be uniquely positioned to make this work. The Pixel line has never really managed to go toe-to-toe with the competition when it came to specs anyway and it was more of a triumph of software that even made it close. This move to a Snapdragon 765G basically concedes that point while still delivering 5G and what should be solid performance for daily use and some gaming.
The question is whether in the face of strong competition around this same price point from Samsung, Apple and OnePlus if Google can hang on to its already fairly limited market share and failing that what we will see from the Pixel line in the future.